Fréjus Cathedral

Fréjus, France

Fréjus cathedral, dedicated to Saint Leontius of Fréjus, has been the seat of the Bishop of Fréjus since the 5th century. It is located close to what appears to have been the Roman forum of Fréjus. Elements of Roman buildings, such as columns and walls, were incorporated into its structure.

Beginning in late Roman times, the town suffered a series of invasions and was pillaged by Goths, Burgundians, Franks, Lombards and Saracens. A plague carried away much of the population in the 6th century. In the 10th century Saracen pirates ravaged the coast.

The expulsion of the Saracens in 972 brought a period of relative peace. In the 12th century Fréjus was governed jointly by the Viscount of Fréjus, who had a castle near the port, and by the bishop, who lived beside the cathedral. The medieval town of Fréjus grew up around the cathedral.

The church is part of a complex of a larger fortified complex of medieval religious buildings dating from between the 5th and 13th centuries, comprising a parish church and a cathedral under one roof; a baptistery. There is also a bishop's residence, canonry and cloister.

Baptistery

The baptistery of the cathedral is a fine example of Merovingian architecture. It was built in the 5th century but hidden during later reconstruction, and was rediscovered in 1925. It is considered the oldest Christian structure in Provence, and one of the oldest in France.

Cathedral

The cathedral contains two naves, one of which belonged to the bishop, and the other to the local parish, side by side under the same roof, separated by arches. It appears that the naves were probably built at different times. The church of St. Étienne was probably begun in the 11th century, and enlarged in the 12th century, and became the parish church of the city. It consisted of a long nave under a barrel vault ceiling, divided on the north side into four parts by lateral arcades resting on massive rectangular pillars. The south wall, which connected the church to the cathedral of Notre Dame, was reconstructed in the 12th century to add greater strength and support for the new arcades that were constructed. The marks of the stonemasons can still be seen on the vault of the third traverse.

The nave and choir of the cathedral of Notre Dame were built next, in the 13th century, against the south wall of the church of St. Étienne. The first part constructed was the porch and bell tower, at the western end of the nave, between the baptistery and the nave. This part of the church, like the residence of the bishop at the other end, had a strongly military appearance, as if to stress the power of the bishop in temporal as well as spiritual affairs.

Cloister

The cloister, which served as a place of meditation for the bishop and the dozen canons who served him, was built in the 13th century on the north side of the cathedral. It consists of pointed arches resting on double Corinthian columns. The decoration of the capitals of the columns features the key, the symbol of the bishops of Fréjus, and the fleur-de-lis, the symbol of Charles I of Anjou, the brother of Louis IX of France, who had become the Count of Provence in 1246.

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Details

Founded: 5th century AD
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Roman Gaul (France)

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Mark Colquitt (10 months ago)
Nice place
Matthias Speidel (10 months ago)
Historical site
S L Happy (2 years ago)
A nice place to find your place of mind. beautiful architecture.
What's kooking (2 years ago)
Great tour and good experience
Shaun Kitson (2 years ago)
Worth visiting if you're in the town. Lovely architecture and an interesting history.
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